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10 games remain for Laredo

The Bucks are perilously close to the point of having nothing left to play for but pride.

Ten games remain for Laredo’s team, which finds itself five games back of playoff consideration.

Due to dropping its two most recent games — one in a shootout to Allen and the other via shutout to the Killer Bees — the Bucks are moving in the wrong direction and it might be too late to right the course.

Rivalry road

Luckily, it’s never too late to beat a rival.

“It would be huge (to beat Rio Grande Valley),” Bucks coach Serge Dube said. “We have three games against them before the season ends. We’re still in striking distance of reaching them in the standings. It’s a crucial game for us, like any other game, but this one might be a little more because it’s a team we’re trying to catch.”

When the Bucks face the Killer Bees in the Valley tonight, they have a chance to play spoiler against a bubble team that’s gotten the better of them in their last four meetings.

The overall series between the two is actually close — eight games have been won by the Bees and six games have gone Laredo’s way — but the Bees’ recent domination has left Laredo stinging.

Dube, however, said he isn’t concerned by the recent trend.

“We beat them three in a row before that,” he said. “I’m not making any excuses, (but for) one game we were short-handed (with) only 14 skaters. It’s a time of year when guys are struggling with injuries and they’re tired so we just have to get healthy here shortly and just play hard every night.”

Man down

Unfortunately for Dube, he’ll be shorthanded once again in the Valley.

“I won’t have Neil Trimm for (tonight’s) game,” he said. “He has a concussion from one of the hits versus Rio on Sunday.

We’ll miss him and hope he’ll be back for this weekend.

Pre-playoff atmosphere

The short-lived Cricket Mayor’s cup may be gone from the rivalry, but bad blood is bad blood and these two teams love nothing more than to beat each other.

A revenge victory for the Bucks would go a long way toward generating some much needed momentum for a team on the ropes.

“It’s going to be a playoff type game,” Dube said. “We have to be ready and show up to play hard. They want those points to get away from Tulsa as well, (so) it’s a big week for both teams. Games will only get bigger for both of us.”

After tonight’s road trip against the Bees, the Bucks’ host Allen Friday, play at the Brahmas’ rink Saturday, and host Arizona Sunday.

Familiar foes

The Bucks seemingly had Allen’s number since mid-December, beating the Americans in seven of nine tries.

The luck gave out Friday, however, when the Americans took Laredo through five frames of shootout before emerging with a 4-3 victory.

“Allen’s a good team,” Dube said. “They’re trying to catch Wichita right now (and) they’re getting healthier bodies in their lineup — they’re not second place for nothing.

“We play them hard and smart and we’ve been successful, we just have to continue (to) be successful. One 1-0-1 weekend vs. Allen isn’t a bad feat.”

Friday marks the last battle between the two and offers Laredo its last opportunity to show Allen — and the CHL — how great the Bucks can be.

Arizona inexplicably holds a 4-2 record against the Bucks, despite being the only team behind Laredo in the league’s standings.

Three of Arizona’s victories came in Arizona, so the Bucks will be looking to turn home ice into a winning atmosphere when they play Sunday.

After that, Laredo’s final six games are on the road.

“We obviously don’t want to finish off our home games this weekend,” Dube said. “Hopefully we’ll be blessed with some wins so we can make the playoffs and get more games at home. We have to take advantage of the home ice situations and hope for the best on the road.

“We definitely need to take pride in our game, win the two at home and take pride in our defensive play and our road play after the weekend.”

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Laredo falls to Allen in shootout

Laredo’s Justin Styffe (19) fights with Allen’s Rejean Beauchemin (32) at the Laredo Energy Arena on Saturday. Photo by Danny Zaragoza | Laredo Morning Times

The Laredo Bucks’ playoff aspirations took a blow Saturday night when the Allen Americans staved off a late Bucks’ rally to pick up a 5-4 shootout victory at the Laredo Energy Arena.

After falling behind 3-1 in the second period, Bucks fans hoped for a repeat of the previous night’s rally when Laredo erased a two-goal deficit in the third period, but fate had other plans.

The Americans took advantage of an overextended Bucks’ attack to breakaway behind Laredo’s defense and score on a 1-on-1 with Bucks’ goalie Ryan Rondeau in the final 10 minutes of play, snuffing out Laredo’s momentum and capturing a 4-3 lead.

When Laredo was granted a power play in the game’s final two minutes, coach Serge Dube decided to go all-in on his opportunity.

He emptied the net and sent six Bucks forward on offense — a gamble that paid off when Laredo’s Matt Boyd found the back of the net with 1:07 remaining to take the game to overtime.

Neither team scored in overtime, advancing the game to a best-of-five shootout.

Laredo scored on its first shootout attempt, raising spirits that the team would live up to its 6-1 overtime record, but Laredo proved unable to find a follow up on any of its remaining four tries, and the Americans put their fourth and fifth attempts in the net to secure their 5-4 victory.

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Bucks rally past Allen

The Laredo Bucks continued their late season rally with a last-minute victory over the second-placed Allen Americans, 3-2, at the Laredo Energy Arena on Friday.

The Bucks’ (23-30-1, 47 points) were playing with their backs against the wall for the majority of a sloppy third period, until Rusty Masters drove the puck straight through the heart of the Americans’ defense and scored on a 20 foot shot from center ice with 1:54 to spare.

Allen (29-15-9, 67 points) responded by pulling its goalie from its net, but the six-man attack failed to pierce Laredo’s frenetic defense.

The dramatic finish was the final blow in what was a dramatic Laredo comeback.

The Allen Americans got off to a strong start with a pair of goals — one of which came on an Allen power play — to take a 2-0 lead in a first-period they thoroughly controlled.

Laredo toughened up after the first intermission and struck back with two goals of its own in the second period.

The Bucks’ first goal was fruit of a relentless sustained attack in the second minute of the second period.

The Bucks controlled the puck and loosed several shots on the Americans’ net until Allen’s goalkeeper put himself out of position by haphazardly diving for a loose puck, leaving the net open for Neil Trimm to drill in a score off a smart pass from Matt Boyd.

Laredo tied the game 13 minutes later on a power play when Adam Rivet launched a windup shot from just inside the blue line.

The force of the shot was so powerful that — despite Allen’s goalkeeper blocking it with his foot — the puck pushed the goalies’ foot aside and squeezed into the net.

The victory was Laredo’s fourth in the team’s last five games, keeping the Bucks within four games of a playoff berth as the season nears its end. Only 12 games remain.

The Bucks play tonight, again hosting the Allen Americans.

Laredo has won seven of its last nine against the Americans.

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Bucks roll Allen

Laredo Bucks’ David Inman (17) skates away from the goal with the puck on Saturday at the Laredo Energy Arena. Photo by Danny Zaragoza | Laredo Morning Times

The Laredo Bucks picked up right where they’d left off the night before by thrashing the Allen Americans, 5-0, on Saturday at the LEA to throw fresh fuel on the dimming fire of their playoff hopes.

“We played a very basic game, and we took advantage of (Allen’s) mistakes,” Bucks coach Serge Dube said. “The guys are excited about the win, and so am I. To beat Allen two games in a row is always huge — I don’t know if any other team has done that yet so far this year — but we’ve just got to keep our confidence high (and) prepare ourselves for tomorrow.”

Laredo’s first three goals came in less than five minutes during the second period.

The team’s first score came from Neil Trimm, who flicked the puck off the back of Allen’s goalie and into the net.

The next two goals belonged to Erick Boisvert, the first on a long shot over the goalkeeper’s shoulders and the second thanks to a perfectly played assist from Trimm on a two-on-two breakaway.

“When you get the first goal in the game, that brings the momentum to a whole other level, and you can see in how we play,” Boisvert said. “We just keep going hard, and stuff just happens. It becomes a lot easier and gets everyone going.

“I took advantage of those bounces in the second (period), and they went in. I kind of blacked out a bit there.”

A fourth goal from A.J. Hau in the final period added to the Bucks’ lead, and a Justin Styffe goal in the game’s final two minutes served as an exclamation mark at the end of a successful night.

Laredo’s goaltender, Ryan Rondeau, played a perfect game, stopping all 31 Allen shots. Rondeau made a number of clutch saves to prevent Allen’s dreams of a rally from materializing.

“Ryan played great tonight, and he played really well for us last night as well,” Dube said. “It’s always good to have two goalies; it gives me and the players that confidence (that) it doesn’t matter who’s in the net, we know they have our backs.

“Having Ryan play well last night in Allen and play really well again tonight was a big bonus for us.”

Despite Allen’s position near the top of the Berry Conference’s standings (29-14-9, 67 points) — and Laredo’s position at the bottom — the Bucks have developed a knack for getting the better of the Americans more often than not this year.

The Bucks are 6-4 against Allen overall and have won six of the last eight.

“The guys took their game up,” Dube said. “It’s sad to say, because we have a hard time with (teams lower in the standings), but for us to beat Allen, who is up there, it’s great, but we need that mentality to play every night like (we’re) against a team like Allen.

“That’s the ultimate goal: to beat the good teams and beat everyone else and climb in the standings.”

With the win, Laredo rises to 21-29-1 on the season, 11 points back of fourth-place Tulsa. The Bucks get a chance to continue their climb up the standings tonight when they face Bloomington.

“We have to be ready to play hard and Bloomington, we can’t take lightly,” Dube said. “They lost to Rio (Grande Valley) last night and won tonight. They’re trying to get out of that bottom spot in their division as well, (so) we have to be ready to play and take advantage of our situations.”

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Bucks stun Allen – again!

Bucks upset Allen, 4-1 in Allen. Unedited press release below:

LAREDO, TX: The Laredo Bucks, of the Central Hockey League, defeated the Allen Americans 4-1.

The Laredo Bucks and the Allen Americans faced each other for the ninth time this season in Allen , Texas on Friday, February 24th at 7:05pm.  The Bucks won 2-1 the last time these two teams met on January 8th.

The game began with both teams charging into the zones.  It did not take long for the game to take a physical turn as Justin Styffe dropped the mitts versus Trevor Hendrikx at 5:42 into the game.  The Laredo Bucks attacked the Allen zone halfway through the frame, but were unable to find the back of the net.  Neither team was able to light the lamp as the period drew to a close.  The Bucks outshot the Americans 8-4 in the opening period of play.

The Bucks opening play of the second period was a 2-1 breakaway, but the Allen netminder denied Matt Boyd.  However, Laredo controlled the rebound and Greg Moore buried a one-timer from the circle giving the Bucks a 1-0 lead.  Matt Boyd assisted on the goal only 43 seconds into the frame.  Laredo was unable to take advantage of two powerplay opportunities midway into the second.  At 17:06, Ryan Sparling put a move on the defensemen and was able to go backhand deflecting the puck off the stick of the goalie.  Erik Boisvert assisted on the goal.  Only 35 seconds later Ryan Sparling scored once again, this time with a forehand over the shoulder of Marco Cousineau.  Rusty Masters and A.J. Hau assisted on the goal, giving Laredo a 3-0 lead.  Both teams had 11 shots on net during the second period.

The Americans had several chances to score during the third period, but Ryan Rondeau continued to stand strong in his net.  However, the Americans were able to break through and score stick side at 13:33.  The Bucks were tested by Allen for the remainder of the game, but Laredo was able to hold on.  Ryan Sparling sealed the win for the Bucks by scoring his third goal of the game, an unassisted emptynetter, at 18:35.

The Laredo Bucks will return home to the LEA to face the Americans Saturday, February 25th at 7:30pm.  The last time these two teams met at the Laredo Energy Arena there were over 300 minutes in penalties! 

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Bucks’ notebook quotes

Below are some of the unedited quotes of Laredo Bucks‘ coach Serge Dube from my Feb. 21 interview of him. You can find the full story in today’s Laredo Morning Times.

-What’s the morale of the team at right now?

“It’s pretty good. We had a big win on the weekend in rapid, which is pretty tough to do. They’re a very good team at home and I thought we played well on Friday in the 2nd half of the game. we had one point out of there, but we played really well Saturday night and limited our mistakes and Bryan played well in goal and we capitalized on a couple big goals.

-12 points back of 4th, 18 games remain. Is that something y’all talk about? How do you address it?

“It’s mentioned, but we just have to make sure we’re ready for every game. Doesn’t matter if we’re 4th spot or 14 points we just have to concentrate on winning games and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, just show up to play every night.

-Lost five of your last six before winning the shootout the other night, what went wrong in those losses?

“We were making a lot of little mistakes and we weren’t working hard like we should have been and it was catching up to us. We were playing good teams and, though a couple games were close, we weren’t playing up to par. The guys realized that and we just kind of have to go with it and learn from our mistakes.

“It can be multiple reasons. We don’t have Matt Pierce in the lineup, who’s a huge key for us. Its that time of year when it’s a grind. Its kind of hard to tell, you’d have to ask the players. We just have to come out hard and there’s no excuse for us not filling up every night.

“You just have to work that much harder. when things are rolling it seems the game is easy for you and when things aren’t going well it just seems like the more you work it seems you’re not getting anywhere but you have to fight through it and keep the game as simple as possible. When that settles down it falls into place.

-8 of your next 12 come at home, and then its six road games to finish the season. Are these home games your last stand?

“We treat them and approach them like any other part at this season. Home or away we need to start winning games. If they’re home or away it doesn’t matter. We just have to make sure we show up every night whoever we play and bring our best effort. Its one of those scenarios that there’s no looking back here on in. we have to win games and if we don’t its our own responsibility. We can’t rely on other teams to lose and right now we still control our fate.

“Whenever you a crowd on your side, a big crowd, take rapid city for instance. They draw well and it’s a great atmosphere for the guys every night. When I used to play, it was just a good atmosphere and it makes guys pick their game up and give a little extra so having a big fan base would be a gift.

-Half the remaining home games come against Allen, who you got the better of before the all-star break. Why were you successful against Allen then, and why will you be successful against them now?

“We played them hard. When we play Allen, it seems we raise our game up to their level and we def need to do that. We put pucks and bodies on the net work hard and the guys try to keep the game as simple as possible and limit mistakes. The guys know playing against a team like Allen you don’t get many second chances. That’s why they were such close game.s we had good goaltending finished checks and put bodies to the net. We did all the little things right, if we stay in that system and that mentality I think we’ll be pretty good here.

-What’s the No. 1 thing that needs to happen for the Bucks to make the playoffs?

“Win games. We just have to win games. Our special teams have to step up. And we just have to play hard. If we do that, keep the game simple and play disciplined I think we’ll be fine.

“it’s a big week for us with four games the guys are looking forward to it and hopefully we do well and set ourselves up well for the last month of the season.

 

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Bucks hold high hopes for road test weekend

Most teams would be happy to carry a two-game winning streak into a five-day break, but recent history has Bucks fans nervous about doing so this week.

The last time the team rode into an extended break with wind in its sails, it was the Central Hockey League’s All-Star break.

Laredo had just defeated the highly ranked Allen Americans to cap off a strong week’s performance and looked to be carrying a full head of steam through the mandatory break and into a pair of weekend contests in Arizona.

Instead of cruising to victory, however, the Bucks came out flat and dropped both contests, triggering a four-game slide they didn’t recover from until Friday.

Head coach Serge Dube, however, said the two situations are apples to oranges.

“During the All-Star break, we were unavailable to go on the ice (due to league rules), but this week will be different,” he said. “We can go through little things (like) if the guys have any questions and prep up on what we’re doing this weekend to get ready.”

The ice time makes all the difference, Dube said.

On Monday, his team practiced puck flow and skating drills.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, they rehearsed their systems.

“The guys are on the ice for 90 minutes a day,” he said. “We’re still on the ice and we don’t have a 20-hour bus ride (like we did to Arizona), so I’m hoping for a different outcome Friday night.”

ROAD TEST WEEKEND

The Bucks’ three games this weekend all come against divisional rivals.

They are imperative wins if the team is to climb the standings.

“We’re playing three teams in our division (that are) ahead of us, so they’re all important (games),” he said.

The team kicks off its road test weekend with a trip Friday to Rio Grande Valley, where the Bees will be out for revenge after falling to the Bucks in both of the pair’s most recent contests.

From there, the Bucks drive to North Richland Hills on Saturday to face the Texas Brahmas.

After that, they’ll drive through the night to reach Tulsa, Okla., in time for a Sunday afternoon contest against the Oilers.

“It’s tough on guys; on their bodies and mentally,” Dube said. “But the guys have done it before, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary. We just have to stay focused and stick to the game plan and we’ll be fine.”

ROSTER MOVES

One player who will likely be playing harder than the rest when the Bucks face the Killer Bees Friday night is newly signed defenseman Trevor Hunt.

Hunt was signed to the Bucks this weekend after being released by the Bees last week.

“I remember playing against Trevor, and he played tough,” Dube said. “If he plays tough like he can and keeps his game simple, he can be very effective for us.

“He’s obviously looking forward to playing against the Valley this weekend, but he’s just one of those hardworking guys that plays tough. Hopefully he can bring that aspect to our game as well, and I guess we’ll play it by ear.”

Pre-empting Hunt’s singing, forward Mark Nebus was released by the Bucks last week.

Dube said Hunt can play defenseman or forward, whatever the situation demands.

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